Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard
List of ensemble works (2013-2018)
A major third consists of 9 different notes. (2018)
Commsioned by Nordic Saxophone Festival
Duration: 11 min
Study of the Major Third - No. 1 (2017)
Music for 6 violins. Commissioned by Erik Carlson (US) Duration: 10 min
Triangular Mass (2017)
Music for multiple triangles. Commissioned by Harpa/Dark Musik Days (IS) Duration: 20 min
Music for multiple tremolo harps Duration: 18 min
Music for saxophone quartet and 4 floor fans. Commissioned by Jutlandia Saxophone Quartet (DK) Duration: 10 min
Towards A Major Third (2016)
Music for 2xviolins, oboe & clarinet. Commissioned by Esbjerg Ensemble (DK) Duration: 10 min
Tyngdebølger/Gravitational Waves (2016)
Music for 13 tremolo harmonicas, chimes and cymbals Commissioned by AJO/Aarhus Festuge (DK) Duration: 22 min
SOUND X SOUND - MUSIC FOR 16 TRIANGLES (2016) Ensemble piece for 16 triangles in 2 parts:
Muted Triangles(part 1), Triangles (part 2)
Duration: 8 min
SOUND X SOUND - MUSIC FOR 15 SHAKERS (2016) Ensemble piece for 15 shakers in 2 parts:
Coarse Grain (part 1), Fine Grain (part 2)
Duration: 9 min
SOUND X SOUND - MUSIC FOR 10 HI-HATS (2016) Ensemble piece for 10 Hi-hats in 2 parts:
The Outside (part 1), The Inside (part 2)
Duration: 12 min
SOUND X SOUND - MUSIC FOR 18 CLARINETS (2016) Ensemble piece for 18 clarinets in 2 parts:
Clarinets (part 1), Bass Clarinets (part 2) Duration: 11 min
SYMPHONY No.1 (2016)
Music for the inner ear (imaginary text music 2016)
SOUND X SOUND - MUSIC FOR 9 PIANOS (2015) Ensemble piece for 9 pianos in 2 parts:
Descending (part 1), Partial (part 2)
Duration: 8 min
A collaborative piece created with Jacob Kirkegaard
Ensemble piece for 13 horns (5 cl, 4 trb, 4trp), 13 triangles, 13 shakers and feedback. Commissioned by AJO/Aarhus Festuge/DOKK1 (DK)
Duration: 35 min
SOUND X SOUND - MUSIC FOR 30 CHROMATIC TUNERS (2014) Ensemble piece for 30 Chromatic KORG CA-1 Tuners, in 2 parts: Solo Piece, 410-480Hz (part 1), Ensemble Piece, 410-480Hz (part 2) Duration: 11 min
SOUND X SOUND - MUSIC FOR 8 RECORDERS (2014) Ensemble piece for 8 recorders in 2 parts:
Soprano recorder (part 1), Alto Recorder (part 2) Duration: 9 min
Ensemble piece for 30 Chromatic KORG CA-1 Tuners & 8 recorders
Duration: 4.42 min
Choir piece (3xS 3xA) in 2 parts:
Jeg kan se uendeligt (part 1), Lys Blå (part 2) Commissioned by Culture Region Vadehavet (DK)
Duration: 20 min
Ensemble piece for 8 clarinets/bassclarinets, 4 snaredrums & cymbals, 4 double basses , altosaxophone and trumpet.
Duration: 30 min
MAGRITTE THEMES (2013)
7 short pieces for flute, piano, woodblock and clarinet
Commissioned by MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) and Hello Monday (DK/US)
Duration: 10 min
GEGEN MENSCH (2013)
Trio piece for 2 prepared saxophones and 1 prepared trumpet
2017: Descending (collab. w. Jacob Kirkegaard)(Important Records, 12")
2016: SOUND X SOUND – MUSIC FOR 10 HI-HATS (Hiatus, 7”)
2016: SOUND X SOUND – MUSIC FOR 16 TRIANGLES (Hiatus, 7”)
2016: SOUND X SOUND – MUSIC FOR 15 SHAKERS (Hiatus, 7”)
2016: SOUND X SOUND – MUSIC FOR 18 CLARINETS (Hiatus, 7”)
2016: 2 Pieces (Under Pseudonym; Johannes Richter) (Hiatus, LP)
2016: SOUND X SOUND – MUSIC FOR 9 PIANOS (Hiatus, 7”)
2015: SOUND X SOUND – MUSIC FOR 30 CHROMATIC TUNERS (Hiatus, 7”)
2015: Amaranth (Hiatus, CD)
2014: SOUND X SOUND – MUSIC FOR 8 RECORDERS (Hiatus, 7”)
2013: 13 Pieces (Under Pseudonym; Johannes Richter) (Hiatus, LP)
2013: Sikorsky (Hiatus, CD, DIASBOX & LP)
2012: Vesper (Hiatus, CD & 2LP)
2010: The Scale of Grey. The Tone of Black (CD)
2007: Light Airborne (CD)
2005: Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard (CD)
Now I think about it, I’ve been fascinated by the phenomena explored through Løkkegaard’s SOUND X SOUND project since I was a small child. I used to go see Tottenham Hotspur play several times a season, and forever marvelled at how the congregation of thousands of chanting fans (all screaming “COME ON YOU SPURS” in drunken, somehow tuneful unison) all fused into a sound all of its own; a timbre that contained traces of the human voice yet ultimately transcended it, swirling around White Hart Lane stadium in a gale of slurred vowels.
Danish composer Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard has spent the last few years composing for ensembles comprised of single instruments. 18 recorders. 30 chromatic tuners. 10 hi-hats. 15 shakers. As the name suggests, SOUND X SOUND explores what happens when a single tone is multiplied by itself – when similar vibrations splay across space and collide with eachother, amplifying their common traits and negotiating their differences. The shakers form a crisp, high-frequency wash of white noise. The recorders become a rippling blanket of beeps and electronic chirps. The piano (played, at one point, wearing gloves that slide down the keys from high to low) becomes an ivory rain, backdropped by the gasp of strings quivering in the wooden hulls of the piano body. The effect is absolutely wonderful. Below, Løkkegaard and I discuss the conception of SOUND X SOUND, his plans for the final four pieces in the series, and how multiplying sound acts as a remark on musical narratives and our problematic reverie for musical tradition.
So what’s the central idea of SOUND X SOUND and how did the project begin?
The first release [Music For 8 Recorders] was an offspring of a piece I did earlier called Sikorsky, which was this major piece for 18 musicians: eight bass clarinets, four cymbals and four double basses, plus alto saxophone and trumpet. It was this spectral piece. I had fallen in love with how the sound could partly transcend – but also transform – into something else. So suddenly the bass would sound like a bass clarinet, while a cymbal played with a bow would sound like the overtones on a double bass. I just felt an urge to look at what would happen if you just multiply the sound of one instrument.
It’s a pretty simple concept, and it’s not that different from choir music. We’re so familiar with that. When you make a choir piece, the individual voice dissolves into this greater collage of sound. By listening to this timbre that evolved when instruments were multiplied, I found out that the sound suddenly became something else, and it became easier for me, as a listener, to go into this sound. You know that feeling as a listener, where a narrative is pulled down on you and there’s a clear agenda from the composer’s side – that you should feel this from the music? Suddenly, it dawned on me that I liked this multiplication sound because I was free from the individual instrument, the individual player and the individual reference within an instrument. I was free to create my own narrative in this music.
As a composer of these pieces, you surely have to write for, and contemplate, the individual to begin with. How do you reconcile this with the desire to transcend the sense of individuality within the music?
Above all, my interest is in sound as matter. That is my focal point. When I write the music, of course I write individual voices for each player. But I consider each player as a building block in this layering process. In the western way of looking at music, we divide the scale into half and whole step, and we work with a tempered universe. I really try to look into all the other stuff: what is below the half step? What is the un-tempered universe? What knowledge has not found its way into this western tradition of making music? When you first play an instrument, you start by learning a major scale; you don’t learn how to play a microtonal scale, for instance.
From the press material accompanying the SOUND X SOUND releases, I get the impression that this method of making music has certain analogies to democracy and power structures generally. Did these arise during the creation of the pieces or in retrospect?
It’s something that came up in retrospect. I started creating these pieces because I wanted to experience, as a listener, this sonic catharsis – this feeling of being cleansed. And then I started to think, “why is it that I can breathe easier in this music? Why is it that I feel I can go into this music without struggling with insistent narratives?” And then it dawned on me that I’m also interested in the power structures within music and knowledge. There’s an idea that you’re not qualified to have an expression unless you are trained to play a certain instrument. A lot of music refers heavily to its own history. For example, take John Coltrane – it’s free improv, but people say, “It’s easier to go into these pieces if you go into these previous pieces”, or “It’s easier to go into Karlheinz Stockhausen if you listen to some Schoenberg.” So there’s this power structure of knowledge, you know? You have to have this key to unlock that music.
So I had this utopian idea of creating music that is free of these references – a kid could listen to this music and the same way as a music professor, or a plumber…you just put on the ears that you would use to listen to birds in the forest. You listen to the sound as a nature-given sound rather than a cultural sound. I know that, of course, that’s a utopian idea, but it’s a thought that concerns me a lot.
The idea of being qualified is also very present from the side of the composer. In an old interview, I saw David Grubbs talking about the fact that a musician gains the right to do something formless – for example, pushing an amplifier down the stairs – by working up their credentials as a genuine musician beforehand. It grants legitimacy to the act.
Yeah – I know the sentence: “You have to know all the tradition and history before you come up with something new”. There’s this empiric problem in this – in one thousand years from now, you’ll have to learn a further one thousand years of music tradition in order to do something new. It’s a paradox. Perhaps when you’re 80, you’ll have finally learned enough to do it. I think you should be free to choose your own tradition. I write this music simply because I think it’s really nice and really beautiful – this conceptual stuff we’re talking about now is just a product of that.
So how do you score these pieces?
Traditional music notation is very much connected to this idea of being qualified to create music. You have to learn to read and write notation in order to access it.
They have been noted in different ways. With each piece, I’ve tried to acquire the instrument for which I’m writing. Originally I’m an educated saxophonist, so I have a knowledge about how a saxophone works and how a clarinet works. I also played the recorder when I was small, but I tried to take up the instruments and play them, and see what the instrument is capable of – almost in a childish way. When my kids play around with an instrument they become fascinated with this magical thing, which becomes forgotten when you really learn how to play it.
Some of the pieces have been notated using traditional scoring. For instance, the recorder piece is performed by classical recorder players. In that score I’m really thorough in notating. The fingering is all wrong, so in that way it’s really complex. Music For 9 Pianos is notated as a picture of the keys, and then I use a transparent marker to note which keys to press down – so that could be played by anybody, even without any experience of how a piano actually works. The hi-hat piece is actually written as a narrative: you start with a closed hi-hat for two minutes, and then open it 5mm for one minute, then open it 8mm. The triangle, shaker and piano pieces could be performed by anybody, but for the other pieces you should be able to read a little bit of music.
Do you have a sense of the final result when you’re writing these pieces?
Is there a means by which you trial the effects of multiplying these instruments before you gather up the musicians to rehearse and record?
It’s old fashioned, but I work with GarageBand. I sit with my clarinet using the wrong fingering and record one layer, then I find another fingering and record another…my goal is always this sonic transformation that takes place. I don’t record all the layers, but I get a notion of how it would be in the studio. Also – when there’s 18 clarinets, there are suddenly a lot of logistics. I cannot offer the musicians any salary for the recordings. Perhaps they will get paid during a concert. But when I ask people to participate, they agree because they find it exciting to play along with 17 other clarinets. They will probably never do that again. But it’s also important for me to say, “Okay – I’ve asked you for this for free, so I know I can’t expect us to rehearse this forever.” We meet in the studio, rehearse and record very quickly. That’s the pragmatic frame surrounding the pieces. Within these frames they should be able come to life, and they should not be difficult to play.
What’s it like hearing these pieces performed by real musicians for the first time?
That’s where the climax is for me. I hear this music, and I can feel all of these interferences and differential tones that evolve and destruct…this micro-cosmos of sound that is pounding at my tympanic membrane. For me, it’s this bodily experience of sound. It’s so beautiful. I’m cleansed by this sound. These recording sessions are magnificent, and socially they’re really fun – the musicians are really happy, and they’re often talking to eachother saying, “ah – I haven’t seen you for five years!”, because they all play the same instrument.
They like it because the rehearsal time is so sparse, the material is fresh and there’s a focus. Previous projects have sometimes been stressful, and there’s been a pressure to make it work. It’s been so easy with SOUND X SOUND and all of the takes have been so good. Standing in the studio and having 18 clarinets playing in front of me in this semi-circle…I feel this sound frying my brain. That has been the peak for me.
So how long did the whole rehearsal and recording process take for, say, the piece for recorders?
It took one day. Because it was the first one, we actually had a separate rehearsal for that piece. That was the only exception. But the other pieces have only taken place in the studio: one day for rehearsal and recording.
It must be such a rush?
It really is. There’s also the strange ensemble size; it’s probably only a once in a lifetime that these musicians will be in the studio with so many other musicians playing the same instruments. I feel that it’s pretty amazing for them to be a part of. I’m also interested in the tradition of how ensemble sizes can dictate the kind of music that is written. For example, in classical music you have a lot of string quartets and that’s a really beautiful ensemble size. There’s a lot of new music being written for the string quartet and the symphonic orchestra because they’re institutions. But when they dictate the type of music that is written, then you have to discard a lot of other ensemble formats and sizes. In the future, perhaps this is what the standard ensemble could look like: the 10-hi-hat ensemble. We also have to not be blinded by these institutions that dictate what kind of music can be written.
The ensemble size also often dictates the scale of the music itself. What I love about your SOUND X SOUND pieces is how abandon the traditional idea of musical scale – once you get beyond about 8 recorders, it’s very difficult to tell how many people are involved in playing this music. It’s nice to see you disarming this transparency of scale that so often rules over ensemble music.
Yes, it becomes blurry. “How many musicians am I listening to?”. It’s just this cluster of sound. That’s totally my experience of it too.
So you’ve got four more SOUND X SOUND pieces coming out in November?
Yeah, that’s going to be the end of the series. I’m releasing the last four at the same time: clarinets, hi-hats, triangles and shakers.
Three of those are percussively themed, I see.
For the shaker piece, I was very interested in whether I could develop a feeling of white noise. You would never normally listen to a piece just for shakers. As for the triangles – they say that it’s an instrument with no tonal root, but I don’t know if I agree with that. When I layered the triangles, suddenly this overtone appeared above them; this layer above what was actually played. And the hi-hats…it’s such a magnificent instrument. When you really listen close to the hi-hat, it becomes apparent that there’s this really deep bass frequency sound, which you don’t relate to a hi-hat at all. You can generate this space between the cymbals which is changing all the time. I fell in love with it.
I’m surprise you’re bringing this series to a close – you still seem very enthused by the whole concept.
Who knows – I might make another five years from now. I’m very occupied with the creative paradox. I was very skilful as a saxophone player in a certain language and mastered my instrument, but I was also a slave to myself, and my knowledge and my own habits. I have to go away from the SOUND X SOUND concept for a little while in order to look at my own practice from a critical perspective – perhaps I’ve already developed some habits I can dismantle again. I need to back off and look at it, and then I think I’ll come back again.
I already have some ideas about circular pieces actually. At Iceland’s Dark Music Days festival [MYRKIR MÚSÍKDAGAR] in January, I’m performing this piece for 70 triangles, which will be placed in a huge circle with the audience in the middle. The idea of surrounding the audience with sound…that’s something I really like. I could see some of my SOUND X SOUND works morphing into this somehow.
I understand that you’ve got a couple of other shows over the next month, including the finale of SOUND X SOUND at Copenhagen Jazzhouse on November 11th. What else is coming up?
Well I’ve made this festival called Curatorium.
I was going to ask you about that.
I’m very interested in the narrative perspectives of art. We could claim that we create a reality through the means of language, and if we were to take that to the uttermost extreme…that’s making stories about a piece of art, where the story becomes that art it refers back to, but the physical notion of the artwork is dissolved. The only thing that’s left is the narrative about it.
You could say that we live in narrative times; perhaps it’s always been true, but it’s even more so now. Of course, the digital world is different narratives, and we know that they’re only narratives but they still intertwine with this physical reality. While visiting a museum in Aarhus here in Denmark, I went into this room called The Curator’s Room. It was this room where the chief curator had changed some pieces from the collection, and placed them in a new way in relation to eachother. This room was to be experienced as a new artwork – this meta-work. This curator had not created these pieces; they were only placed in a new narrative.
We can see the same tendencies in music festivals, where curators take different acts and put them together, creating this meta-artwork called the programme. You often see these really sweet programmes full of killer names, and the story is so aesthetic; it’s only really good taste and stuff like that. I’m really not interested in the acts as such.
So I wanted to investigative this “movement”, in terms of how we perceive and talk about art, through this festival called Curatorium. I realised that there’s a nice upside to this, because if we were to say that the piece of work as a physical notion is dissolved and that only the narrative is left, then everybody is free to create the narrative. If I were to say to you, “I would like you to write a string quartet”, you might reply, “I don’t know how to notate”. But you can imagine something. “The first thing I hear is a high tone from the violins…”. Everyone can create something. I’m interested in this narrative as a tool for composing and for dismantling power structures.
It also allows the listener to participate in the creation of the work through imagination and anticipation, too.
For a composer like Iannis Xenakis, the ontology of music ended with the score – he was not interested in how it was perceived by the audience. By making this imagined music – or as I call it, music for the inner ear – then the piece emerges through the meaning to the listener. As you say, that makes everybody co-creators in the music.
(Jack Chuter 12 Oct 2016, ATTN:Magazine)
Sound X Sound
Music For 8 Recorders
The starting point for Niels Lyhne Lokkegaard and his vision of manipulating instruments, here he amplifies alto and soprano recorders in a way that almost makes them seem electronic. Both sides of the record take the same approach, multiplying sound in a way that blurs out words into an organic, transcendent state. Classical and orchestral music has been slowly working its way into the indie-rock scene, but Sound X Sound is doing it in a way like no one else has or likely will.
(Tom Haugen, New Noise Magazine, Feb 4th 2015)
Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard – Sound X Sound: Music For 9 Pianos
Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard has been busily investigating the particular qualities that can come from quantity on his Sound X Sound series of seven 7” vinyl releases. In this third instance, he has nine pianists playing two very different pieces in a veritable fall and resurgence along the keyboard, descending and rising up from the depths with results that are on occasion remarkably similar to some of the impossible to play black MIDI tunes that were all the rage for a while.
As ever, Løkkegaard’s compositions are more about the properties of the sounds that each instrument generates rather than having a specific musical character. This is of course what some sections of the avant-garde have been concerned with for a century or more, and Løkkegaard’s contribution to the ongoing project is exemplary.
As might be imagined, “Descending Piece” ripples frenetically from the higher registers downwards to the the deeper tones, sounding far removed from the usual pianist’s approach of starting at one end of the keyboard and trolling amiably down to the other. Instead, the notes flood past almost relentlessly, tumbling and coruscating like a waterfall of sound that swells in intensity until a final rushing roar. It’s a veritable Niagara of sound, and actually quite refreshing, like a plunge beneath said waters to become immersed in a maximalist baptism by piano. “Partial Piece” takes an opposing approach, reflecting on thundered chords and the resonant properties of strings and frame, tapping and recursing in a tippling traipse up the scale with quite hypnotic results.
(Freq, Antron S Meister, May 28th 2016)
Sound X Sound
Music For Chromatic Tuners
A 7″ by Danish composer Niels Lyhne Lokkegaard, the songs here feature 30 KORG CA-1 Chromatic Tuners. If you’re like me, you have no idea what that means, but are curious as to what kind of sounds emanate here. Much like Lokkegaard’s previous release, the idea is to magnify the sound of this particular instrument with many of them engaged in a tight setting. Dense, rich and organic, you can hear the sounds of the tuners being manipulated on the b-side, which has 6 players each amplifying their Tuners into waves of full, experimental patterns. The a-side is all Lokkegard as he navigates his tuners into a quivering mood that transcends music and brings the listener to a place that conventional music often can’t. A truly niche release, this EP will have massive appeal to a small group, but small appeal to the masses.
(New Noise Magazine, Tom Haugen, March 1st 2016)
Niels Lyhne Lokkegaard, Sound X Sound, Music for 9 Pianos
Composer Niels Lyhne Lokkegaard has been doing a series of short compositions, each released on a 7-inch vinyl pressing. The "Sound X Sound" series is devoted to the gathering of a particular class of sound generators to form an ensemble that then plays minimal mini-sequences that concentrate on a particular class of sounds repeating in a kind of musical cloud of ebbs and flows, something like the sound of an orchestra of crickets on a spring or summer night. I've covered the first two here, one for recorders, another for an orchestra of digital tuners.
Today we have the third volume, Music for 9 Pianos (Hiatus 014). It continues where the others leave off. The amassed sound of the pianos is slightly less startling than the recorders or digital tuners, because we've been exposed to multiple piano sounds before, though not quite like this.
"Descending Piece," occupying side one, is devoted to rapid downward moving glissandi, first in the upper range, then the lower. "Partial Piece" (side two) gives us a series of sustained, gradually decaying note clusters, then a swarm of repeated notes.
Lokkegaard succeeds in giving us a sort of unidimensional sound world once again, two short pieces that have a unified series of objectives that in their brevity and singleness of purpose carry the day.
You may want to begin with the recorder or tuner volume first, but together all three capture our aural imagination quickly and then as quickly they are gone.
Recommended for those who would appreciate an uncompromising sound stage of unified aural clouds. More volumes are apparently in the offing. Give a listen!
(ClassicalModernMusic, Grego Applegate Edwards, April 25th 2016)
Presenting two compelling works composed by Danish sound artists Jacob Kirkegaard & Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard and performed by the Aarhus Jazz Orchestra, Descending is a powerful exposition of extended acoustic technique used to bend the ear in fascinating ways.
Revolving two pieces for room resonance, triangles, shakers and horns, the recorded results of Descending transcend the sum of their parts in gripping style. In Movement 1 they conduct a breathless transition from the polymetric interplay of triangles, sounding like a distant alarm bell, calving off into thinnest, cirrus timbres and reemerging as a mesmerising display of sustained, quivering, bittersweet horn dissonance culminating a stunning, keening finale. Movement 2 opens with those horns at a lower, sustained pitch, rolling across the stereo field with an uncanny precision that you would normally expect from electronic music, glacially growing in density to sound like an incoming Stuka formation, precipitating a nerve-biting swell of discord before returning, almost palindromic, to the polymetric rustle of shakers.
Of course, the magick of the piece is much harder to describe, though. It lies somewhere in the relationship between the knowledge of the composers, the players’ incredible skill, and their recording space, whose unique characteristics are crucial to its success in keeping us enthralled from start to finish. It lies in the way they slide the sound around the sphere of perception, purposefully generating and controlling the resonant feedback until it becomes a part of the work itself, generating a lingering harmonic aura to the sounds which gels them in smoothly contoured transitions between each tightly disciplined cluster of pitches with a near-enough metaphysical structure.
Stunning work. A rare treat for the lugs, especially if you’re into Eliane Radigue, Eleh, Harley Gaber, Harry Bertoia.
Boomkat, December 10th, 2017)
Music for Krügerrand at Dark Music Days, Reykjavik 2019
Through much simpler means – just a cluster of electronic tone generators and eight gold bullion coins – Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard achieved something immeasurably more impressive. His Music for Krügerrand began with the coins being struck together like crotales (each of the four players wielding two coins) and held close to microphones, greatly amplifying their softly vibrating high frequency resonances. As they began to overlap more, the effect became a more cogent cloud of pitch (spanning roughly a minor third), shimmering due to the beats caused by their close proximity. It was a piece best listened to with eyes shut, and not only because it prevented one being distracted by the players’ actions but because it meant it wasn’t immediately noticeable when Løkkegaard began to introduce the generators. With closed eyes, i slowly began to realise that some of the resonances were lingering far more than seemed possible – until the realisation dawned that the coins and generators were now coexisting and coalescing into an even more intricate mélange of gently clashing high frequencies. i’m guessing Løkkegaard opted for bullion coins in order to obtain a purer resonance when they were struck together, but either way, Music for Krügerrand was completely riveting, a kind of miniature firework display made up of discreet little sparks colliding with each other somewhere in the atmosphere
(5against4, Simon Cummings, Feb 9th 2019)
NIELS LYHNE LØKKEGAARD
SOUND X SOUND-MUSIC FOR 8 RECORDERS
At points during Music For 8 Recorders, I jolt back into consciousness. It’s so easy to forget that I’m listening exclusively to a woodwind instrument; the tone is so pure and breathless, verging on electronic in its clinical, perfectly rounded timbral shape, concealing the very organic act of expelling air through a tube. The recorder sounds as effortless as water. I listen intensely enough that the context and origin of the record often recede, replaced by whatever mental imagery decides to drape itself over the sound.
In the case of the “Soprano Recorder” piece, I imagine a circuit board of bizarre, spaghetti-esque connections, pulsing and buzzing as electricity passes across the jumble of intersecting wires. It babbles with strange, feral artificial life; the recorders ramble senselessly without an jot of melodic recognition, occasionally striking me as the overcrowded dawn chorus of a biomechanical universe. “Alto Recorder” is warmer like the audio translation of bubbles forced through Jacuzzi water, pulsating asynchronously to form a quivering and soft whole. Again, the sound soon starts to feel synthetic: a room full of digital alarm clocks straining their songs out from the energy of dying batteries, the tone wobbling and threatening to die.
The objective of SOUND X SOUND is to use the multiplication of a particular sound to estrange it from its original source. It’s an idea not too dissimilar from that of Alvin Lucier, who continuously recycled a recording of his own voice in a room, playing the recording back and capturing it over and over again, until language dissolved into a sheer throb of syllabic rhythm. Here, however, Løkkegaard retains the option of zeroing my listening upon one particular recorder, momentarily re-connecting the sound to thoughts of human lips pursed firmly around a mouthpiece, before the distracting of the surrounding commotion sweeps me into abstraction again.
(ATTN:MAGAZINE, 22 JAN 2015)
Løkkegaard’s SOUND x SOUND Vinyl Box Set Transcends in Form and Concept
Imagine, if you will, the sound of a bell. What is it that you are hearing? If the sound is replicated and multiplied–so that one toll becomes indistinguishable from a din of chimes and strikes–and a new type of sound both bell and not-bell is born, are we able to transcend the suggestion of the bell and encounter something entirely unique? Indeed, if we could detach the sound from its source, uncouple the sound of the bell from the bell itself, what would the sound, sound like? It is these questions and others like them that Danish composer Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard endeavors to explore in his work SOUND X SOUND, an iterative project that has culminated in a special, seven-disc vinyl box set, released in 2016 and now available directly from Danish indie label, Hiatus.
Composed between 2014 and 2016, the complete work is a series of seven pieces, each for a small, homogenous ensemble consisting of a single instrument in multiples. Practically titled, they are: “Music for 8 Recorders,” “30 Chromatic Tuners,” “9 Pianos,” “15 Shakers,” “18 Clarinets,” “16 Triangles,” and “10 Hi-Hats,” respectively.
As the composer remarks in the liner notes:
“Imagine you enter a room with vibrant acoustics, such as a café full of people having conversations, and when you’re close to those conversations you hear the language and understand the words. If you step away from the tables, however, and stand in the doorway, you begin to lose the ability to distinguish the words from one another. Now instead of hearing the individual conversations, melts all the conversations together [sic], and [they] transform into one new sound. A sound of people without words and language. Just as when you hear a group of geese squawk, or the wind in tree tops, a kind of nature-given sound of people. Once the language is dissolved and the words stop making sense, what is left, is the sound. Clean, free of meaning and open to all ears. This applies to the spoken language, just as much as it does to the musical language.”
Indeed, while the concept of the work implies a kind of scientific or clinical aspect and is presented as a kind of holistic archive of sounds, the mysterious nature of Løkkegaard’s exploration into the expressive nature of timbre maintains an artistic dimension that is complemented by the use of the word “music,” both in the composer’s comments and in the title of each piece. That Løkkegaard chose not to call these works, “The Sound of 8 Recorders,” for example, is a creative choice that serves to broaden the depth of each composition into an abstract realm.
Addressing the concept alone, it may be suggested that we have heard this work before. Pieces such as György Ligeti’s Poème Symphonique for 100 Metronomes immediately come to mind, alongside monochromatic spectral and textural atmospheres created by composers such as Giacinto Scelsi or even the primordial tonalities and rhythms of Harry Partch. But Løkkegaard’s forceful brevity of form and shrewd focus in concept and execution allow these pieces to exist in a creative space that feels unchallenged by cliché. The result is a satisfyingly holistic library of sounds and textures, indirectly described in the liner notes as the captured sounds of “various instruments in their natural habitat.”
Further in line with this notion of preservation, the physical product makes a robust statement on several levels. Held against a high standard that will appeal to true audiophiles, each disc is a heavyweight 45rpm 7-inch, packaged in a glossy, chipboard sleeve. The design of each sleeve emanates from the same aesthetic universe as the musical material archived within, capturing the essential spirit and shape of the sounds in simple geometric shapes and patterns. In some instances, the shapes represent the featured instruments, such as the triangle or hi-hat cymbal; in others, fields and patterns allude to the quality and shape of the sound itself, as in concentric circles or sandy fields of static implying clarinets and shakers. The set is contained within a heavy, grey chipboard box, fastened together with metal grommets and subtly embossed with the title SOUND X SOUND flanked by rectangular fields of tiny circles taken from the artwork of “Music for 30 Chromatic Tuners.”
The simple aesthetic and quality of the materials instill a satisfying sense of permanence that transcends the possible novelty that contemporary vinyl releases may bear. As explained further in the liner notes, the robustness of the materials and attention to detail with regard to the quality of the sound effectively align with Løkkegaard’s intention “to store the essence of [each] instrument on a 7-inch vinyl, much like the gold plated copper record the space probe Voyager 1 carried with it into space when it was launched in 1977. That record contained what was considered to be the essence of earth and mankind. Thus the essence of the various instruments will be preserved for posterity, each on its own mini-record.”
As stated above, despite the composer’s frequent allusions to science and technology, there is a prevalent mysticism in this work. The ritual elements associated with listening to vinyl, in combination with the beauty of the product itself and the various shades of symbolism encoded in its packaging, further suggest the anticipated evocation of a heightened sensory awareness that cannot be described. This anticipation is again best summarized in Løkkegaard’s own words, “I want to create sound that will let the instruments transcend their inherent sonic norms and reappear as new, untouched sound.” Wherever the threshold lies, beyond which this archetypal and uncorrupted sound universe may exist, it could be safe to say that Løkkegaard has plotted a clear trajectory toward this point, and in memorializing this unique work in physical form, leaves behind a profound offering for many subsequent generations of ears to ponder.
March 30, 2017 - I Care if you listen)
Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard – Sound X Sound: Music for 8 Recorders
The first in the Sound X Sound series of 7″ singles which will each explore just one instrument, Music for 8 Recorders finds Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard‘s compositions tackling the alto and soprano varieties on each side of the record. On the evidence of the first disc, the rest of the Sound X Soundseries should be well worth following, not least to discover how much Løkkegaard can push the limits of each instrument as intriguingly as he has done here with one as unassuming as the humble recorder.
The recorder (or blokfløjter in Løkkegaard’s native Danish) has long suffered an association with endless childhood lessons on the instrument, seen as it is (in Britain at least) as the perfect method by which to torture both primary school pupils and their families, and its reedy tones have blared away across the generations until its reputation has been thoroughly sullied as a serious instrument. While this less than fulsome opinion may not be assuaged by a first encounter with the “Sopranblokfløjter” side (more of this later), the fluttery trills of “Altoblokfløjter” ease in and out of a band of tonal variation which soon becomes sonorously enveloping, surrounding and filling space with the instruments’ lilting piping in glorious cadences which could easily last much longer than the space restrictions of a 7″ single allow.
clamouring for attention like a flock of hungry wildfowl
On the soprano side though, things are less gentle, less soothing; there’s something about the pitch of the recorder itself which pierces straight to the core of the brain which evokes a fight or flight response, perhaps giving the instrument, at least here, the properties of Pan’s pipes in their original, far more devilish form. But Løkkegaard takes pity, and allows for solace from the assault and battery of the eight reedy voices jostling and clamouring for attention like a flock of hungry wildfowl, and the relief which accompanies the eventual fade into muted, blissful rounds of far more pacific fluting and suble, near-silent fingering is truly blessed.
(Richard Fontenoy, 2nd Feb 2015, FREQ)
Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard is a Danish composer who has been working with multiplying instruments to make the sound transcend itself, creating a pure new sound without references to anything. We’ve recently posted about SOUND X SOUND, his project devoted to this. How sounds have the capability to affect the human body, and how the human body is to be heard in sounds, is what he focuses on in his works.
1. What sound from your childhood made the most impression on you?
I think the sound that made the most impression in my childhood, was the sound of our garden sprinkler. It was one of those sprinklers with a head, that would turn around and sprinkle water. The stream of water was abrupted by a piece of metal, moving very quickly, to make the water spread over a larger area, and this would create an exiting pattern of rhythms and water sounds. This sprinkler would change speed, first creating a slow rhythm and then suddenly move backwards in a faster speed and create a more intense rapid rhythm and dramatic water sound. I was quite fascinated by this.
2. How do you listen to the world around you?
I listen in different ways each day, and I don’t know why. Somedays my listening is focused on the intervals, melodic structures and tones that I encounter in nature, traffic, etc. On other days, my ears seem to be more focused on the rhythmic patterns of our surroundings- patterns that are often random and erupt and dissolves again. And third, my way of listening can have a bodily and mental focus. How does this sound make me feel? I like this way of listening the most, and I often experience it when I´m out in the nature-the sound of wind in the treetops, or some high grass that is swaying back and forth. I then feel that nature takes care of me, and I feel connected with nature in an mysterious and ancient way. I feel very grounded.
3. Which place in the world do you favor for its sound?
I grew out near the western coast of Jutland. It´s on the countryside, and I really favor this place because it´s so very quiet.
4. How could we make sound improve our lives?
I think that sound could improve our lives even more, if we were willing to recognize that sounds can have a healing effect in several ways. Of course soothing sounds that are often referred to as being “beautiful”, can make you feel good, but also noise and very confronting sounds can make you feel better, and be very soothing I think. If I experience a noise inside myself, it can be very soothing for me, to listen to very extreme noise- that noise absorbs my own noise and then I feel better.
5. What sound would you like to wake up to?
I like waking up to the sound of my kids. If I´m not at home, I like waking up to the sounds of birds, or the sound of our old garden sprinkler.
(Everyday Listening, 21th Jan 2015)
Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard – Sound X Sound: Music For 15 Shakers; Music For 18 Clarinets; Music For 16 Triangles; Music For 10 Hi-hats
Having released the first three 7″ singles in the Sound X Sound series over the space of just over a year, Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard has progressed to delivering the last four discs in the set at the same time, nearly two full years after the first appeared. Following the well-established format of the initial run, the final singles consist of Music For 15 Shakers, 18 Clarinets, 16 Triangles and 10 Hi-hats, and together complete Sound X Sound with some of the strongest pieces of them all. As a bonus, the entire colour-coded collection is now also available in a handmade boxed set.
As might be anticipated, the sound of fifteen shakers is rattly and persistent, creating a wall-to-wall sussurus in “Fine Grain” on Side A, the dynamics minimal, movement slow and the ear-filling quotient high; it’s an interesting experience, on which throbs and judders on to Side B to extract the maximum amount of texture that shakers can deliver. Likewise, setting so many (one more) triangles going at once is going to resemble nothing so much as several fire alarms being set off over time, so not only could this single make a good layered wake-up tone, but dropping it into a DJ set could get the venue into a whole heap of trouble in short order.
As the apparently relentless trilling on the A side reaches a crescendo before fading, the dense sound soon becomes almost calming, having persuasively insinuated itself into the fabric of time if not necessarily space. Almost remarkably, the obverse face draws out the quieter properties of the instrument, played muted to rattle like nothing so much as peas in a pod (or perhaps, shakers), allowing the sixteen performers to fully explore the (somewhat limited) possibilities it has to offer.
There’s a similar amount of repetition to be had with the clarinets, and eighteen of them give György Ligeti a run in the intense warbling stakes, propelling the brain-melting properties of this many reedy voices like so many alien overtones trilling from the dark sides of Jupiter’s moons in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Somehow this manages to be one of the most engaging pieces of the whole Sound X Sound series, the piercing waves of harmonics drilling straight for the cerebral cortex and putting normality on hold for the duration. The contrast with the B side bass clarinets’ resonant rumble couldn’t be starker, standing waves of drones setting the fixtures and for that matter furnishings a-rumbling with all the mighty atonal overtones of a church organ in full flow — or indeed a spaceship burning its engines for one more push further out into Stanley Kubrick‘s version of the solar system in all its sublime hallucinatory magnificence.
And lastly, and decidedly not leastly, the ten hi-hats are given a mighty workout. The opening “Outside” is possessed initially of an isolationist bowed drone worthy of Thomas Köner‘s arctic explorations of the instrument. At first ominous,then once again close to hitting those brown notes that window frames find so sympathetically resonant, the track reverberates pleasantly before building into a vast cacophony of shimmering percussive rolls and rapid-fire chittering. So it only remains for the “The Inside” to work up to a frenetic finale, the hi-hats’ centre discs fluttering and frittering their collective farewell in a resplendent rise, surge and fall of drumsticks on brass, and the resulting silence after the sudden terminal fade seems to hold almost imperceptible echoes of their apparently untouchable motion.
Taken together, the seven discs of Sound X Sound make for a pleasingly single-minded and well-considered achievement, and one well worth (re)visiting from the top.
(Richard Fontenoy, FREQ, 16 Dec 2016)
Additive Timbre: Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard Music for 8 Recorders
Like the swirling masses of clouds that momentarily amass over Sumatran rainforests (those cumulus bodies whose outward appearance of solidity belie their effervescent transience) the floating masses of sound in Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard‘s newest record coalesce into an audibly ephemeral cluster that swells and dissipates in much the same manner, except as if under time-lapse. The listener, already familiar with these barely visible transformations of form that play out across the bodies of clouds, will find that Music for 8 Recorders disappears as much as it appears and reappears within these temporal parameters. In its on-going re-shaping and re-forming of itself, the like-ness of each instrument’s sonic similitude is the limitation by which musical ideas are dispassionately explored in the promising new series SOUND X SOUND, of which Music for 8 Recorders is the first installment.
Shipping as a 7” vinyl record, the album is comprised of two sections, each section adhering exclusively to one of two different families of recorder: Alto and Soprano. Danish composer Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard, a reed instrumentalist and alumni of the Rytmisk Musikkonservatorium in Copenhagen, brings vital organic pulsation and movement into to these two contrasting sections, as well as a thermodynamic responsivity. By exploiting the registers and sonority of the different recorders to a completely different effect, he arranges each side of the record as a negation of what came before. He creates this differentiation both within the overarching structure as well as through the development of different levels of rhythmical intensity: for instance the alto recorder section contains different periods of growth and depth, as could be depicted with an aplitudhedron, whereas the soprano recorder section is more like the substrate of a dense particle field, always buzzing … swirling … changing position … everywhere and nowhere all at once.
The simplicity often linked to recorder music, by way of its uniform timbral quality as well as its association with schools and with children (in maybe their first contact with an instrument), is but the first layer of associations Løkkegaard seems eager to embrace as well as dispel. The mechanism by which these instruments are stacked and their sound compacted together makes one forget that we are, in fact, listening to recorders … that is unless we actively pluck out individual lines from the additive mass. This, however, would detract from the overall experience of the mass itself, which Løkkegaard is pointing us towards, with its drone-like hypnotic affectation and its ecosystems of dynamic beating. A second layer of associations arise from historical memory, as if the compressed frenzy of calls and oscillations is being issued from another time; are we hearing the battle cries of Eric Bloodaxe? Or perhaps we are listening to dream fragments belonging to Harald Bluetooth, who long ago walked Denmark in an age when music was imagined with the sounds of a similarly primordial essence? Yet a third layer which cannot be discounted (which is evoked mightily by the shrill purity of the resonance in Løkkegaard’s music here) is the associations linking Music for 8 Recorders to the natural world, to a world before time and before history. This is a zone where birds rule the skies and reptiles submerge into the depths. The uncanny cacophony of the soprano recorder section, in particular, recalls those tiny subantarctic islands, relics of deep time, where birds congregate in astronomical numbers to mate and to nest. The coextensive homogeneity of the timbre reinforces complex associations and (re)awakens these ancient memories.
Just as clouds undergo changing processes brought upon by external environmental pressures, we can imagine each breath of each player, each pulsation in Music for 8 Recorders as the composite of one of many of these external pressures. We can also imagine the sound they produce together as mirroring the mutations and dynamic flows that play out across nature. In a short video teaser for this recording that Løkkegaard has posted to his YouTube channel, we get a glimpse of the eight players merging into one, their lines blending together in a replay of evolutionary processes. The SOUND X SOUND Series aims to chart more of this type of homogeneity-as-resource, in which it will quest for more musical potential within the realm of the singular. Løkkegaard, whose works have earned him numerous Danish and European music prizes, has created a beautiful new record worthy of repeated listening, one subject to the listener’s preference for playback speed (33 1⁄3 rpm, anyone?) as well as the listener’s innate connection to time immemorial.
(GAVIN GAMBOA, March 19, 2015 I Care if you listen)
Niels Lyhne Lokkegaard, Sound X Sound, Music for 30 Chromatic Tuners
Another 45 RPM "Single," as it were, is now available from composer Niels Lyhne Lokkegaard, namely Sound X Sound Music for 30 Chromatic Tuners (Hiatus 013).
Lokkegaard creates his music, as the title suggests, from a veritable orchestra of digital tuners.
Tones emerge, are in part de-tuned into microtonal complexes as fascinating as they are dense and rich. As per the last release (type his name in the search box above for that) Lokkegaard shows us the possibilities available from a collective gathering of tones generated by simple means which thrive in their multiplicity, when experienced in such "orchestral" settings.
It is a simple idea on the surface yet yields nice results via the rigor of the realizations and the untoward virtuality and reality in space.
It is a worthy irreverence and another fine example of Lokkegaard's sense of inventive sonic possibilities.
Join in the beehive-like swarm of sound as a listener. Listening does not feel passive when the sounds are collectively expressed in this way. You feel in the middle of it all, not on the outside. Listen!
(ClassicalModernMusic, Grego Applegate Edward, Nov 2nd 2015)
Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard is an award-winning Danish sound artist, known for his instrumental experimentation and improvisation technique. His approach to sound art and musical theory is aimed at dismantling tradition and norms in order to deliver unique and unexpected soundscapes. We spoke with Løkkegaard about his work with large ensembles of instruments and technologies and his creative approach to sound design.
Pleased describe your work in 1-2 sentences
I´m trying to create sound that will let the instruments transcend their inherent sonic norms and reappear as new, untouched sound. My method is multiplication of sound as a way to make the instruments transcend themselves. The sound of the individual instrument dissolves and reappears as untouched unheard sound. A landscape of sound open to everybody.
I often explain the SOUND X SOUND project and my method like this:
”Imagine entering a room with vivid acoustics, filled with people talking across the room. They are having separate conversations and close by you can identify the language and understand the words. Stepping away from the tables and standing in the doorway, you can no longer distinguish one word from another and the human language ceases to exist. All conversations melt together and transform into a new sound. A sound of people without words and languages but with an innate sound, as we hear a flock of squawking geese or the sound of the wind blowing through the leaves. When language is dissolved and words loose their meaning, sound remains – pure, free and open to all ears.”
What inspired you to compose SOUND X SOUND and pieces like “Music for 9 Pianos”?
The piano is an embodiment of western culture and social class-so it´s more than just an instrument. In the old days you had to learn to play the piano if you wanted to appear well-educated etc., and it that sense the piano also defines social hierarchies.
Creating this piece I was interested in how to short circuit this instrument and thereby also short circuiting our own culture, dismantling hierarchies -and force us to look at the piano with new eyes and listen with new ears.
I remembered all the rules surrounding the piano in my childhood. I always wanted to stroll the white keys -then the black keys, or just hammer away very loud-but I was always told not to do so.
So this piece is actually written upon the notion that a kid with no piano skills would be able to play it.
“Music for 9 Pianos” is (like all the other pieces in the SOUND X SOUND series) an attempt to make music that makes us listen in new ways, and there experiencing reality in new ways.
Are you interested in creating sound art for large audiences or more intimate settings?
Yes I´m interested in creating sound art for large audiences, but I´m also interested in creating sound art for large ensembles. These days I´m working a lot with the triangel which I think is interesting due to it´s sound (off course), but also the fact that everybody can play the triangle. With that in mind I´ve been writing pieces for 16 triangles (from the SOUND X SOUND series), for 40 triangles and in January 2017 I´m premiering a piece at Harpa in Reykjavik, Iceland, for 70 triangle players. This ensemble will consist of all kinds of Icelandic people; musicians/non-musicians, kids, old people and so on. I like the including potential of music, and I think about how to make music more direct and how to democratize the act of playing music. You don´t have to be a musician to play music.
What is your favorite sound?
All sounds are my favorite sound.
Why do you make sound? In your mind, what can sound communicate?
I´m not trying to convey any predetermined feeling or narrative in my music. I´m not interested in telling the listener what he/she should experience while listening to my music. I´m interested in creating a state of potential- by that I mean, that I want to create music that can be listened to in many ways. One listener will feel joy, another sadness and that just fine, thats the ways it suppose to be.
(Present Soundings December 5, 2016, Jack Tuftie)
Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard, Sound X Sound, Music for 8 Recorders
Danish composer Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard gives us a tantalizing slab of aural adventure on his inaugural Hiatus Records 7" vinyl release, Sound X Sound, Music for 8 Recorders (Hiatus 010).
The format necessitates a brevity that refreshes via understatement. We get two different works, one for each side, all coming in somewhere under ten minutes. The first side is for eight soprano recorders. It proffers a rather dense jungle of turbulent, tonal sound. This is a recorder ensemble that creates a panorama of busy, fluttering, flighty sonics with a thick overall texture, a kind of high-vitamined avery. In the course of the short work the motives begin with longer phrases and transform into a series of rapid trills.
The second work features eight alto recorders. It begins with continuous unison tones which gradually transform into trills that alternate with the root tone in a patterned pulsation that has soundscaped qualities as well as a regularity. The number of different trills increases until the sound is more chordal than drone and trill. In the end the recorders sound a sort of ritualized drone of root and third.
The short, unassuming nature of the two works charm and give you a sound world both intimate and expansive. The mini-concert ends with you wanting more. Apparently next on the docket for Løkkegaard is music for multiple chromatic tuners.
This is a fun adventure!
(ClassicalModernMusic, Grego Applegate Edwards, Jan 5th 2015)
The Lake Radio, 2015